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Levi Johnston

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Levi Johnston
Levi Keith Johnston

(1990-05-03) May 3, 1990 (age 34)
Sunny Oglesby
(m. 2012)
PartnerBristol Palin (2005–2010)

Levi Keith Johnston (born May 3, 1990) is best known as the twice-former fiancé of Bristol Palin and father of their son Tripp. He first received media attention in August 2008 when U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced that her daughter Bristol was five months pregnant by Johnston and that the two were engaged. The couple ultimately ended their relationship, and Johnston and the Palin family engaged in several public feuds.

After working in the Alaskan oil fields, Johnston pursued a career in the entertainment industry, aspiring to be a model and an actor. He has written a book based on his experiences with the Palins, titled Deer in the Headlights.

Early life and education[edit]

Johnston was born in Wasilla, Alaska, the first born child of Sherry (née Sampson) and Keith Johnston. Levi has one sibling, Mercede "Sadie" Johnston.[1] Levi attended Wasilla High School, where he played on the hockey team, but did not graduate.[2][3][4][5] He worked full-time on the Alaska North Slope oil fields as an apprentice electrician,[6] quitting in January 2009.[7]

Relationship with Bristol Palin[edit]

According to Johnston, he and Bristol Palin began dating during their freshman year of high school.[3] After losing a promise ring on a caribou hunt, Johnston had Bristol's name tattooed on his finger.[3][8]

Following the announcement that she would be Senator John McCain's running mate in the November 2008 U.S. presidential election, Sarah Palin announced that her daughter Bristol was pregnant by Johnston, and that the two would be married.[9] Johnston denied claims that he was being pressured into a shotgun wedding, stating, "We were planning on getting married a long time ago with or without the kid. That was the plan from the start."[3] The couple's son, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, was born in December 2008,[10] but the two broke off their engagement in March 2009.[10] In May 2009, Johnston said that their relationship was improving and that they were determined to jointly raise Tripp.[11] Later, Bristol began a child custody case against Johnston, seeking sole custody and child support.[12]

In July 2010, Bristol Palin and Johnston announced that they had reunited and were engaged for the second time;[13][14] less than three weeks later, they ended their second engagement.[15][16][17][18][19]

Media attention[edit]

During the 2008 U.S. presidential election[edit]

Johnston attended the 2008 Republican National Convention with the Palin family.[20] While Sarah Palin was delivering her prime-time nomination acceptance speech, the cameras frequently cut away to Johnston and Bristol.[20] Johnston shook hands onstage with Sarah Palin's running mate, Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain,[3] and was treated as a member of Palin's family.[21]

2009 interviews[edit]

After his 2009 breakup with Bristol, Johnston gave a series of nationally televised interviews.[22][23][24][25] He appeared on The Tyra Banks Show with his mother and sister.[26] Remarking on Bristol's public appearances to promote sexual abstinence,[27] Johnston told The Early Show that "abstinence is a great idea" but said it was unrealistic to think it is going to work for teens.[28] In another interview he said that he was "pretty sure" Sarah Palin had known that he and Bristol were having sex in the family's house.[22]

The Palin family denounced Johnston's statements as lies, with one public statement reading, "We're disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship."[29]

In August 2009, Johnston speculated that Sarah Palin's early resignation from office was due to long-standing marital difficulties, the pressures of the job, and lucrative book and other media offers.[30][31][32] In a September 2009 Vanity Fair interview, Johnston alleged that Sarah Palin initially wanted the couple to keep Bristol's pregnancy a secret and offered to adopt the baby and raise him as her own,[33] but that he and Bristol rejected the plan.[33] In response, Sarah told the media Johnston's statements were "untrue, malicious, and appalling", emphasizing that she highly appreciated her children and commenting that Johnston's photoshoots were "attention-seeking and desperate".[34]

2010 apology and subsequent retraction[edit]

In July 2010, a week prior to the announcement that he and Bristol were engaged a second time, Johnston issued a statement saying "I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true. I have already privately apologized to Todd and Sarah. Since my statements were public, I owe it to the Palins to publicly apologize."[35] After the brief second engagement ended, Johnston said that he regretted issuing the apology, saying, "it kind of makes me sound like a liar. I've never lied about anything."[36][37]

2011 Wasilla mayoral election[edit]

In August 2010, Johnston announced his candidacy for the October 2011 election for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska,[38][39] saying he wanted his son, Tripp, to be proud of him.[40] Incumbent mayor Verne E. Rupright responded that Johnston's announcement was a little early and said "I think it would be wise for him to get a high school diploma and keep his clothes on"—a reference to Johnston's modeling career.[41][42] Bristol Palin responded saying that she was unaware of Johnston's political ambitions, adding "I'm glad that Levi has not given up on completing his education and is looking for steady employment."[43] Johnston's manager stated he hoped to copy the rise of Sarah Palin from mayor of Wasilla to governor of Alaska, "creating a rural, Alaskan version of the Bush political dynasty."[44] It was reported that Johnston's bid for mayor would tie into his proposed reality television series.[45]

In September 2010, Public Policy Polling reported that Johnston had become the most unpopular person polled in his home state, with a six percent approval and 72 percent disapproval rating, replacing former Democratic presidential candidate and senator John Edwards.[46]

In August 2011, six weeks before the October 4 election, Johnston dropped out of the race.[47][48]

Other activities[edit]

Johnston hired Anchorage, Alaska, attorney Rex Butler (who was previously best known for representing criminal defendants and handling civil litigation)[49] to represent him in his pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry.[50] The Associated Press reported in July 2009 that Johnston was also pursuing a movie deal.[51]

Johnston and comedian Kathy Griffin attended the 2009 Teen Choice Awards together. She later stated that he was "surprisingly sweet and courteous" to her.[52] Johnston and Griffin's acquaintance is documented in the sixth season of Griffin's reality television series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Additionally, as a gag in her stand-up comedy routine, Griffin often referred to the acquaintance as a relationship, and Johnston as her boyfriend.

In October 2009, Johnston appeared in a television commercial for Roll International, makers of Wonderful Pistachios, as part of their "Get Crackin" advertising campaign.[53][54] The commercial features Johnston, with a bodyguard, opening a pistachio as a voice-over states, "Now Levi Johnston does it with protection."[55]

It was reported that Johnston would pose fully nude for Playgirl magazine;[56] however, following a statement by Sarah Palin that referred to Johnston's "aspiring porn career",[57] it was announced that Johnston's photo shoot would not include full frontal nudity.[58]

Politico reported in April 2010 that Johnston was working on a memoir "that would air the true story of the Palin household."[59] Johnston's book, Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs, was published in September 2011.[60]

Johnston appeared as a celebrity coach to Logan Cummins in the pilot of a reality television show titled Mansformation released in May 2013.[61]

Personal life[edit]

Johnston married Sunny Oglesby (born 1992) on October 28, 2012.[62] A month prior to the wedding, the couple's first daughter, Breeze Beretta Johnston was born. Their second daughter, Indy Rae Johnston, was born in January 2015.[63][64] Their third daughter Delta Jo Johnston was born on July 10, 2019.[65]

In popular culture[edit]

On September 28, 2010, Ben Folds and Nick Hornby released an album called Lonely Avenue, which featured a track entitled "Levi Johnston's Blues". The song provides an account of Johnston's story,[66] based on actual posts Johnston had uploaded to his own MySpace webpage.

Alaska singer-songwriter Marian Call has said that "The Avocado Song" was inspired by Levi Johnston.

In the HBO film Game Change (2012), Johnston is portrayed by actor Justin Gaston.


  1. ^ Holland, Megan (April 24, 2009). "Prosecutor Didn't Know Johnston Left for TV Appearances — Family: Lawyer Said Levi's Mom Needed to Be with Kids Outside". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  2. ^ Staff writer (December 30, 2008). "Bristol Palin Gives Birth to a Boy". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kaufman, Gil (October 13, 2008). "Sarah Palin's Future Son-In-Law Levi Johnston Denies He's Being Forced To Marry Bristol — The 18-Year-Old Has Dropped Out of High School and Says He's Looking Forward to Fatherhood". MTV. Archived from the original on October 16, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  4. ^ Belenkaya, Veronika; Moore, Tina; Hutchinson, Bill (September 3, 2008). "Bristol Palin's Baby Daddy Is 'Psyched' to Be Father, Says His Pal". Daily News. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  5. ^ D'Oro, Rachel (September 2, 2008). "Levi Johnston's Mom On Bristol Palin Pregnancy: 'This Is Just A Bonus'". The Associated Press (via The Huffington Post). Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  6. ^ Goldman, Adam (October 18, 2008). "Levi Johnston Speaks On Baby, Obama, Sarah Palin". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  7. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (October 6, 2009)."Levi Johnston Goes Nutty in New TV Ad". People. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  8. ^ Staff writer (October 14, 2008). "Johnston Speaks on Bristol Palin, Obama and Baby". NBC News. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  9. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Vick, Karl (September 2, 2008). "No Surprises From Palin, McCain Team Says — Daughter's Pregnancy and Trooper Controversy Were Revealed Before Pick, According to Campaign Aide". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Staff writer (April 4, 2009). "Levi Johnston Says Sarah Palin Let Him and Bristol Share a Room". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  11. ^ Saul, Michael; McShane, Larry (May 6, 2009). "Truce: Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Appear Determined to Jointly Raise Tripp". Daily News. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  12. ^ "Bristol Palin-Levi Johnston child custody fight goes public". CNN Political ticker. December 29, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  13. ^ "Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston are engaged!". Us Weekly. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  14. ^ Jerry Reth (July 20, 2010). "Bristol Palin Levi Johnston Reality Show:Full-Season TV Deal?". TV @ Spreadit.org. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  15. ^ "Bristol Palin to Levi Johnston: 'It's Over'". People. August 3, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  16. ^ "Levi Johnston on Bristol Palin: The Ring's Off, But We're Still Friends". People. August 9, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  17. ^ "Tactical Engagement: Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Make an Art of Tabloid War". Newsweek. August 4, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  18. ^ "Bristol Palin Wanted Levi Johnston to Work 'His Butt Off' to Finish School, Get a Job". ABC News. August 4, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  19. ^ "Real Reason Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Split?". CBS. August 4, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
  20. ^ a b Marcus Baram (September 4, 2008). "Levi the Teen Dad Hits the Big Time:Teen Fathers-to-Be Such as Levi Johnston Face Unique Challenges in Their New Roles". ABC News. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  21. ^ Baxter, Sarah (September 28, 2008). "McCain Camp Prays for Palin Wedding — The Marriage of the Vice-Presidential Candidate's Pregnant Teenage Daughter Could Lift a Flagging Campaign". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  22. ^ a b Hamm, Liza (April 3, 2009). "Bristol Palin's Ex Talks Sex with Tyra Banks". People. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  23. ^ Wren, Jennifer (April 8, 2009). "Levi Johnston Addresses Tensions with Palin Camp". People. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  24. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (April 23, 2009). "Levi Johnston Refuses to Kiss and Tell about Bristol". People. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  25. ^ Staff writer (April 23, 2009). "Levi Johnston — 'I Didn't Think It Was Going to Get This Rough'". CNN. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  26. ^ Traister, Rebecca (April 7, 2009). "Much Ado about Levi — Bristol Palin's Ex talked About Sex and Family on The Tyra Banks Show. It Infuriated Sarah Palin -- and Made Me Want to Watch". Salon.com. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  27. ^ "Bristol Palin Says Abstinence Best Path for Teens". USA Today. The Associated Press. May 6, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2009.
  28. ^ Staff writer (May 6, 2009). "Levi Pans Bristol's New Message — Tells Maggie Rodriguez Abstinence-Only Isn't 'Realistic' for Teens". CBS News. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  29. ^ Fleeman, Mike (April 3, 2009). "Sarah Palin's Camp Lashes Out at Levi Johnston for Sex Talk on Tyra". People. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  30. ^ Staff writer (August 11, 2009). "Sarah Palin Resigned Due to Marital Troubles, Says Levi Johnston". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  31. ^ Standora, Leo (August 11, 2009). "Sarah Palin Has Marital Woes, Almost-Son-in-Law Levi Johnston Says". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  32. ^ Schaller, Thomas (August 11, 2009)."Levi Says (Again) Sarah Did It for the Money — Former Son-in-Law-to-Be Is Becoming an Annoying, Broken Record" (includes video). Salon. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  33. ^ a b Staff writer (September 2, 2009)."Levi Johnston: Me and Mrs. Palin". Vanity Fair'.' Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  34. ^ "Sarah Palin Rips Levi Johnston for Selling His Body". People. October 28, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
  35. ^ Eunice Oh; Sandra Sobieraj Westfall (July 6, 2010). "Levi Johnston Apologizes to Palin Family for 'Youthful Indiscretion'". People. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  36. ^ "Levi Johnston Takes Back His Palin Apology". Salon. The Associated Press. August 26, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  37. ^ "Bristol Palin tells Jay Leno that Levi Johnston need to go back to school". September 4, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010. The New York Times.
  38. ^ "Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska Reacts to Levi Johnston's Bid". US Magazine. August 10, 2010.
  39. ^ US Weekly Staff (August 10, 2010). "Levi Johnston to Run for Mayor of Wasilla". US Magazine. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  40. ^ Natalie Finn (August 10, 2010). "Levi Johnston on Following Sarah Palin's Footsteps". ET Online. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  41. ^ Cristina Everett (August 11, 2010). "Alaska mayor responds to Levi Johnston's bid: Get a high school diploma and keep your clothes on". New York Daily News.
  42. ^ "Levi Johnston Mayor Campaign 'For Real,' Current Wasilla Mayor Belittles Idea". Huffington Post. August 10, 2010.
  43. ^ "Bristol Palin Mocks Levi Johnston's Mayoral Run". US Magazine. August 11, 2010.
  44. ^ "Levi Johnston to run for Wasilla mayor". The Australian. August 11, 2010.
  45. ^ UsWeekly Staff (August 9, 2010). "Levi Johnston to Run for Mayor of Wasilla". US Magazine.
  46. ^ Max Fisher (September 3, 2010). "Levi Johnston Beats John Edwards as Least Popular Candidate Ever". The Atlantic Wire.
  47. ^ Bohrer, Becky (August 23, 2011). "Levi Johnston: Too busy to run for mayor in Alaska". Associated Press. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  48. ^ Tereszcuk, Alexis (August 23, 2011). "Levi Johnston Not Running For Mayor". RadarOnLine. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  49. ^ "Playing Defense: You're in trouble. Big trouble. You need a lawyer. You want to see Rex Butler" (PDF). Rights Advocacy Project. Retrieved February 22, 2010.
  50. ^ Dominguez, Robert (October 11, 2009). "Levi Johnston Is Working Out Six Days a Week to Prepare for Playgirl Shoot". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  51. ^ U.S. News staff and Associated Press (July 10, 2009). "Levi Johnston: Palin Resigned to Cash In on Fame". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved July 10, 2009.
  52. ^ McKay, Hollie (August 10, 2009). "Kathy Griffin's Date Night With Bristol Palin's Ex Fiance". Fox News. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  53. ^ Condon, Stephanie (October 6, 2009). "Levi Johnston Stars in Ad for Pistachios". CBS News. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  54. ^ Moore, Matthew (October 6, 2009). "Levi Johnston Makes Light of Unprotected Sex with Bristol Palin in Pistachio Advert — Levi Johnston Makes Light of His Unprotected Sex with Sarah Palin's Daughter, in a New Television commercial for Pistachio Nuts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  55. ^ "Father of Palin's Grandson to Pose for Playgirl — Attorney Says Playgirl Shoot Next Up for Teenage Father of Sarah Palin's Grandson". MSNBC.com. The Associated Press. October 7, 2009. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  56. ^ Staff writer (October 29, 2009). "Levi Johnston Doing Full Frontal Nudity in Playgirl" (includes video). The Huffington Post.
  57. ^ Barr, Andy (November 16, 2009). "Sarah Palin: Levi Johnston Busy Doing 'Porn'". Politico. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  58. ^ Thomson, Katherine (November 16, 2009). "Levi Johnston NOT Showing Full-Frontal Nudity In Playgirl". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  59. ^ Allen, Mike (April 25, 2010). "Mike Allen's Playbook". Politico.
  60. ^ Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs, September 20, 2011, Touchstone, (ISBN 978-1-4516-5165-2)
  61. ^ YouTube, a Google company. YouTube. Archived from the original on May 14, 2014.
  62. ^ "Bristol Palin, Joey Junker: Reality Star 'Smitten' With Snowmobiler". The Huffington Post. November 1, 2012.
  63. ^ "Levi Johnston and Girlfriend Sunny Oglesby Welcome Daughter Breeze Beretta". ABC News. September 13, 2012.
  64. ^ "Levi Johnston, girlfriend Sunny Oglesby welcome daughter Breeze Beretta Johnston". Daily News (New York). September 13, 2012.
  65. ^ Drysdale, Jennifer (July 15, 2019). "Levi Johnston Welcomes Baby No. 4 -- See the Pic! (Exclusive)". Entertainment Tonight.
  66. ^ Words and Music: Ben Folds and Nick Hornby Make an Album

External links[edit]